The answer is yes and no.
Google Analytics and GDPR
Data transfers have been an issue when it comes to data protection laws for a long time. The issue is that users of Google Analytics in European countries have relied on US-based data processing, meaning that Google Analytics data from Europe gets sent to US servers for processing and storage. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was created to protect the privacy of citizens in the European Union.
The short story (compared to a very long story rife with legalese) is that Edward Snowden revealed how US security agencies use data for surveillance on private citizens. These revelations triggered a complaint against Facebook Ireland from an Austrian citizen. The complainant claimed that transferring personal data to Facebook Inc. (in the US) was unsafe and illegal because of the extent of state surveillance in the US. After many legal challenges, the EU ruled in favor of the complainant. This meant that companies had to put in place specific safety measures that complied with GDPR. Many businesses continued to operate as-is. After many complaints against Google Analytics and Facebook, regulators are moving towards stricter enforcement for data protection. This is where these latest ruling against Google Analytics comes in.
So, Is Google Analytics Illegal Then?
Several Data Protection Authorities have ‘banned’ the use of GA in their country but can’t declare it as unlawful. It was ruled that Google Analytics doesn’t meet the requirements for effectively safeguarding personal data against surveillance. And while this is determined on a case-by-case basis, it’s fair to say that any new complaints in an EU country could have the same result, ordering websites to stop using GA and possibly leveling fines under GDPR.
Websites could try implementing supplementary measures to protect data but it’s almost impossible to guarantee compliance with privacy regulations. When you agree to the Terms of Service for Google Analytics, you are signing off on accepting the built-in measures, and they are the same for everyone. If you do try to implement these supplementary measures, very few are effective, and adding them may impact Google Analytics capabilities. They can also be extremely time-consuming and expensive to implement. This sets a precedent that, in theory, effectively bans the use of Google Analytics in European countries.
Where is Google Analytics Currently Illegal?
Complaints have now been filed in every European Data Protection Authority. It’s only a matter of time before the rulings are made official in all EU member states (and Great Britain). Here are the countries where rulings GA is currently banned from operating.
What Does a Google Analytics Ban Mean for Digital Marketers?
Google Analytics is a powerful tool that provides the data that forms the backbone of many marketing decisions. An effective ban on Google Analytics data in Europe will further erode the data available for making marketing decisions.
We recommend reviewing how many of your website visits originate in the European Union or the UK. If you have any traffic coming from Europe, it’s time to start looking for potential alternatives to Google Analytics. Even if your customers are not based in the EU, it could be a matter of time before these same data protection challenges could appear in some jurisdictions in North America (California and Canada for example).
We recommend you start exploring alternatives to Google Analytics that comply with data protection policies in the EU. We have been testing some alternatives like Piwik PRO, Fathom, Matomo, and Simple Analytics but haven’t been sold on a new platform just yet. Understanding data protection policies and expectations can be difficult to navigate. We can help you prepare for a world without Google Analytics. Let us help you find a solution that works for your business and keep you compliant with privacy regulations.